The Therm-a-Rest Down is just a down-filled topper, which requires the use of a separate stuff sack filled with extra clothes or outerwear (not included). The Down Pillow employs a combination of a locking drawstring and a fabric strip to adhere to any small duffel or stuff sack. The result gives users customizable support (based on the amount and type of extra clothing used) combined with luxury and comfort of lightweight down.
The Down Pillow performed best by bundling loose socks and clothes into a fleece or down jacket, placing the bundle into a stuff sack and attaching it to the pillow.
The Down Pillow earns above-average scores for comfort. We enjoyed the unmistakable sensation of down against our noggins. That comfort increased considerably when we combined the Down Pillow with a stuff sack filled with a fleece jacket and a down puffy. We found the thin, silky polyester shell very comfortable. However, its thin nature allowed the down to compress quickly during the night, leaving a less-than-desirable amount of padding under our heads.
We feel the amount of down in the pillow topper is a tad too low. It could use more volume. We realize the Down Pillow is not designed to be a stand-alone pillow, but the majority of the pillow's cushion relies heavily upon exterior sources.
A connective strip of fabric serves to more effectively hold the stuff sack in place. It also doubles as the pillow's built-in storage bag.
Similar to the Rumpl pillow, this model relies on how well you stuff it with extra clothes you have at camp. While some might appreciate this variability, others might find the extra steps required with this pillow as an added complication. Furthermore, comfort relies on your ability to stuff it evenly and with the right selection of clothing.
Two materials make up the Down Pillow: A thin, silk-like polyester shell and duck down feathers — You do the math. It's lightweight and very compressible, earning it above-average marks for weight. Interestingly, it weighs slightly less than the Rumpl but packs up a tad larger.
However, the Down Pillow was easily outperformed in this metric by the inflatable pillows we reviewed. If you're willing to sacrifice comfort, the Sea to Summit Aeros and the Exped Air UL offer a pillow at much less weight.
Ease of Use
The Down Pillow earned average marks for ease of use. We found it easy to pack and unpack into its built-in storage bag.
Easy as 1-2-3: Gather extra clothing, place them in stuff sack (your own, as this isn't included), attach the Down Pillow to the top.
It's a camping pillow, and by nature easy enough for anyone to use. However, compare to the others, it requires the extra step of unpacking extra clothes from your backpack to add comfort and support, which might not be for everyone, even though our testers didn't have a problem with it. Depending on the fabric and fullness of the external stuff sack, the Down Pillow did occasionally slip out of place. Additionally, its down fill also requires more care when cleaning, which lowers its marks a little in this area.
An easy-to-use drawstring effectively cinches the Down Pillow to the top of most small stuff sacks or duffel.
From sleeping bags to jackets, feathers usually win out when it comes to pack-ability and compress-ability. The same is true for the Down Pillow. It earned its highest marks for its packed size. Even after being shoved into its stuff sack, we were still able to compress this pillow down to nearly half its stuffed size, making it perfect for any trip requiring limited weight and packed volume.
The compressible nature of down gives the Down Pillow an appealing packed volume. If desired, we found that the pillow's volume can be be reduced by almost half by adding it to a compression bag.
The inflatable pillows we tested were the big winners in this metric. Pillows like the Sea to Summit Aeros and the Exped Air UL crush any competition when it comes to their overall volume when packed.
The Down Pillow offers very little support on its own. This isn't an attack on the product, but rather a simple reality of down. The pillow topper loses loft quickly, compressing down to minimal padding. However, when combined with external sources of padding we were quite pleased with the overall support the pillow system provided. When we combined the pillow with the perfect amount of extra clothes and/or jackets, we found the Down Pillow to be compared to icing on a cake. When combined all together, the overall pillow system earned it above-average marks for support.
On its own, the Down Pillow is not effective. However, when combined with the right combination of loose clothing items, we found it to be very comfortable and supportive.
The Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow is a legitimate choice for backpackers who enjoy the feel of a down pillow but don't mind fidgeting around a bit to figure out the perfect combination of clothes and jackets to make this system work. The pillow is lightweight and very compressible, which makes ideal for the backcountry. The Down Pillow could also work well as a travel or car-camping pillow. We found it combined/attached well with small duffel bags or carry-ons, and offered a little extra comfort where needed.
Given the higher cost associated with down-fill products, the Down Pillow is worth it. However, when we compare that to its overall performance as an actual, functioning camp pillow, our opinions wane slightly. The price is right, but the performance could be improved by an increase in the overall volume of down. More down would give more balance between the padding the pillow has to offer and the padding the user needs to create on their own. Forced to stop hemming and hawing and give a more defined decision, we say the Down Pillow offers enough value for its price — just barely.
The Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow is a great idea. It's comfortable, lightweight, well-made, adequately priced, and easy to use. Many people will enjoy this pillow, as we did, but will feel the user is required to create too much padding on their own. The Down Pillow needs to be a little beefier, so that the pillow can add more to the overall cake than just icing.